Sean Moolman, 15268
Novice, beating the bailer's bus!
6 years ago I was getting bored with my gym training, and decided I
needed a goal to work towards and to motivate me in keeping up my
exercising. I decided on the Midmar Mile. From 2006 to 2010 I did 5
Midmar Miles and several other open water swimming events. (By the way,
this is also a fantastic event and experience that I would recommend to
all Comrades runners!)
However, swimming is different to running
in that swimming is not natural human locomotion and technique plays a
major role. At some point I got frustrated with putting in more and
more effort in training without achieving significant improvements in
my times. For the 2010 Midmar Mile I even went for stroke correction
coaching, but could not further improve my time.
I thus decided
that I needed a new challenge. Since I have been running in the
swimming ‘off-season’ to keep fit for a few years already, I decided I
would enter a few 10k runs. At that point I never ran further than 10
So I did two 10 km events in 2009 and thoroughly enjoyed
them. In August 2010 I did my first 21 km and really enjoyed it as
well. There and then I decided that Comrades 2011 was going to be my
Luckily I discovered the Alsoran website, and I also
bought Don Oliver’s book, which I think I must have read at least 15
times! I really enjoyed the training build-up, and mostly stuck
to Don’s programme, bar an injury here and there...
I did a 60 km long training run in 5h 59 min and felt quite good. I
even had thoughts of a sub 9 hr Comrades, but realised that my best
marathon time (3h49min) was not really good enough. So I settled on a
After the 60 km training run I suddenly picked up
ITB in my right leg. This was quite worrying, since I have read about
this injury even before then. I tried to manage it as best I could. Two
weeks after the 60 km, I did my last marathon (Wally Hayward) as part
of the preparation, and although the ITB did not come back strongly, it
was present throughout the race, and I did not have a very enjoyable
This thing nagged at me in the final weeks to the Comrades.
I did not even consider pulling out, as it was to be my first Comrades,
all the arrangements were made, and many people were going to follow me
in the race! So I decided to go ahead and do it. I decided that,
no matter what happens on race day, I’m going to push through to the
I slept very well on the Friday night, since I read
somewhere that you don’t really sleep much on the Saturday night. This
turned out to be very accurate, since I did not manage to sleep AT ALL
on the Saturday night! I kept on looking at my watch and willing the
minute hand forward so that we can get going already...
starting line pens, the Chariots of Fire music, the tangible electric
energy in the sea of bodies, the cock crow and the starting gun was all
a bit of a blur. Next thing I knew there was a snake of human bodies
crawling up the hills out of Durban. It was very exciting to see all
the supporters on the bridges and on the sides of the road cheering the
runners on. It was then that it hit me – this is really it, I am
running the Comrades! It was fantastic to experience what I have seen
on TV so many times before in person, “from the inside”...
heeded all the good advice from many people regarding holding back, and
paced myself very well, even employing run/walk strategies up Cowies
and Fields’ Hill to keep my heart rate in a sustainable band. I
was worried about the ITB returning, but it seemed to stay away,
although my right leg felt a bit stiff.
At 47 km to go, I was
well within time for my 10h target finish time, when the ITB came back
with a vengeance! My right leg seized up completely, and I could not
run at all. I hobbled along and tried to run every now and then, but
the pain was just too much. The doubt shot into my head and I thought
that my race was over. I thought about the bailers’ bus, and what I
would say to all my friends and family afterwards... However, I thought
that there was no other option left to me than to stop the race.
Beforehand one of my colleagues told me about how he hobbled along for
the last 17 km with ITB, and I thought to myself it would be impossible
to hobble along for 47 km with ITB!
This is where I really
started experiencing the spirit of Comrades. A fellow runner passed me
and, when seeing how I was struggling and attempting to run but
failing, she told me that I should relax and just walk for a while and
see what happened, since my time was still very good. I took this
advice and decided to walk until Drummonds and then perhaps get on the
bailer’s bus there.
Another runner came past and, recognising
the ITB walk, stopped and told me that he had some muti in his bag. He
sprayed something onto my leg (I still don’t know what it was) and
continued on. Just after this I reached the physio station at Drummond,
and got a rub on my leg. They asked me “hot or cold?” and I said
“cold”. I don’t know what they put on my leg either...
walked/hobbled past the bailers’ bus, and saw a very dejected runner
leaning against the bus. I started to veer in that direction for a
millisecond and then decided “to hell with this” – I was going to see
how far I can get. I could not stand the thought of bailing. I asked
myself repeatedly “what are you made of?”, and must admit I got a bit
Suddenly I discovered that all the muti’s and the rub
must have done something, since I could run through an initial bit of
pain and then my leg would be ok for a while. The pain would come back
when I started walking, and every time I started running again, but it
was now more manageable.
So I continued on. At around 60km I
realised that I would actually be able to make it in time. At some
point the 11h bus came past, and I hung on for a while, but then fell
back. I continued in a run/walk fashion and actually caught up to the
11h bus again with just about 10 km to go! However, I decided to walk
the whole Polly Shorts, since I did not want to damage my leg
permanently (at least not any more than it was already)...
last few km’s felt like an eternity, but then I caught sight of the
stadium and the pain disappeared almost completely. I ended in 11h 22
min. Not exactly my 10 h original goal, but I am still over the moon
about finishing despite running (of sorts) with a leg injury for 47 km!
back, it was an amazing experience. The camaraderie between runners,
the chatterboxes along the way, the characters, the supporters dressed
up and entertaining the runners, etc.
Just after the race I
uttered the standard “never again”, but of course it is barely 2 weeks
later and I have already decided to do the down run next year and get
that ‘back to back’ medal.
See you all at the starting line in June 2012!
External links: Official Comrades Marathon